21 May 2012

How to type madly and avert nuclear war

Thriller | Karna Small Bodman

I always like to read how India is seen by 'other' eyes. Karna Small Bodman's Checkmate benefits from her insider view of the White House, which part of the book is very fascinating. Villainous militants of the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba are the villains here. They steal three ballistic missiles from a Pakistani base, with the help of conniving armymen sympathetic to their vision of a weird brand of Islam. They use/plan to use these to get India and Pakistan to have a war, whereupon they can take over Pakistan and it's nuclear arsenal, and then go sow the whirlwind. A computer scientist in the USA is developing a missile defense system which attempts to take over command of missiles in flight and direct them back to their sources. She becomes the center of the attempts by the villains. And then proceeds to rescue the world. Applause. Curtain.

It's interesting to me that despite getting advice from 'Robin Singh' about the cultures of Pakistan and India, and getting much of that fairly close to right, and avoiding naming either country as villains, she still manages to make a few bloopers. I guess the subcontinent's names are confusing enough to us insiders, that I should not be surprised that 'others' get these all wrong. I suppose you could name any American by taking two known American names of at random and swapping the two halves of each. Also, people there do tend to be named after Presidents. But 'Fakhruddin Venkatnaman', while not completely impossible, is so wrong on at least two levels. One, Venkatnaman is not a name, as far as I know. It's Venkatraman. And nobody is going to name their kid after both a Muslim Prez and a Hindu one. Especially not FA Ahmad. He's not exactly the best Prez we had, you know. Then, we move to Pakistani names. Nope, it is unlikely in the extreme that the Pakistani Ambassador to the USA is likely to be named Bhattia. Most most unlikely. Find out yourself why not.

Then the geeky objections. You cannot type madly and take over a missile. No, not even if the screen shows a graphic slowly crossing from one side to the other, and giving off tones and messages like a video game. No. Not happening. Not. Really. Trust me. I don't think you can even take over control of a radio-controlled model plane that way. Now, a more powerful transmitter on the same frequency, that would work. But not by madly typing away...

Ok, enough ranting. Nitpicks aside, well researched enough for popular fiction. Fast, easy read. Happy ending. 3 stars. But wait, did she get the White House insider stuff right? How would I know, right?

Next up: The Maruti Story by RC Bhargava, followed by science fiction and another thriller.

[Edit, 30 June 2012: Apparently, you can, indeed, take over a drone aircraft, as a bunch of students and $1000 worth of parts proved this week. But not by typing madly. By spoofing its GPS receiver. Ta da!]

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